Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Horse Avenged


June 6, 1907
San Bernardino

The miners of the Silver Lake camp out in San Bernardino didn’t take the tenderfoot too seriously. His name was Fred Myton and he presented himself as the son of a wealthy Salt Lake City family, come fully outfitted to strike it rich in the gold fields.

One of the miners’ amusements in the remote desert was Bobbie, a horse owned by contractor Sidney Barber but belonging to almost everyone in the camp as he was treated like a pet. Allowed to roam untethered, Bobbie would forage from one miner to the next looking for some kind words, maybe a pat or two and whatever the men could spare from their meals.

“One day when Myton was absent, skirmishing for a bonanza, Bobbie dropped around for 5 o’clock tea. But there was no host to welcome him in the style he had been used to, and after knocking around the tent for a time, Bobbie stuck his head inside and investigated. There, right in plain sight, evidently for his special benefit, was a plate of baked beans with tomato sauce,” The Times said.

“Bobbie lost no time in getting inside of the tent and outside of the beans and during these two interesting operations [he] stepped in the frying pan and knocked over a few articles of furniture which he was not in the habit of seeing in the desert. In fact, by the time Bobbie had turned around and made his way out again, the tent looked as if a Texas zephyr had got loose in the kitchen.”

Myton was furious and the miners got a good laugh out of the tenderfoot’s predicament. Later that day, Myton caught Bobbie with a rope, led the horse out in the desert and shot him in the head with his brand-new Winchester.

Men have been lynched for less than this and The Times pointedly remarked that the fact the miners didn’t string Myton up reflected a new civility in the desert.

Instead, Barber came to Los Angeles and filed a legal claim against Myton seeking $300 for Bobbie, $400 damages for loss of time to his freighting business and $5,000 in punitive damages, a total of $116,984.35 USD 2005.

“Thus does the law avenge Bobbie, once the pet of Silver Lake,” The Times said.

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